How do you think it went when the Honorable Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrived at the gates of Heaven? Do you think those who were there to greet her, first said, “Are you a liberal or a conservative?” with the intent that only a select mindset would be allowed to enter into the courts of Heaven. I can imagine her answer to be, “I am a child of God, a believer in my Lord and Saviour.” And the response of those who were there to greet her was, “Enter thy good and faithful servant, Ruth.”
Of course, we do not know what was said or the procedure when entering Heaven. As believing Christians we do know the gates are open to all believers. We also know that the words liberal and conservative are words to identify individuals who believe government should (liberal) or should not take issue (conservative) to assist in solving problems in a country.
Ginsburg’s approach to answer some of those questions was quite simple. When you examine her arguments for or against a specific issue, you realize she was attempting to define what the words “We the people of the United States ...” refers to in the U. S. Constitution. And how does that apply to the current issue before the court?
Does the Constitution exclude any group of people? You might get a different answer depending on whether a person is a liberal or a conservative. Ginsburg believed it applied to all citizens of this country, regardless of any description attached to an individual or a group of individuals. No one is excluded from the benefits and protections of the U. S. Constitution whether they were born in this country or became a naturalized citizen.
In 2018, candidates for U.S. citizenship at the New York Historical Society got a delightful surprise when Ginsburg came to the naturalization ceremony to speak. Her opening paragraph was “My fellow Americans, it is my privilege to welcome you to citizenship in the democracy that is the U.S.A. Today you join more than 20 million current citizens, who were born in other lands; who chose, as you have, to make the United States of America their home. We are a nation made strong by people like you — people who have traveled long distances, overcome great obstacles and made tremendous sacrifices all to provide a better life for themselves and their families.”
Ginsburg went on to say the most basic right of citizenship is the right to vote and over the course of history people were left out. Justices like Ginsburg have worked tirelessly to make “We the people of the United States ...” more perfect by including all citizens of every race and creed. She recognized huge progress had been made but the work of perfection is scarcely done.
One of the hottest topics to come before the court in the future is whether a woman has a right to make her own decisions. Abortion is a hot topic for some citizens. Is an unborn fetus a citizen covered by our Constitution? Does a woman who was raped have any rights? We will miss Ginsburg’s insight to answer those questions.
Ginsburg recognized that millions of children “live in deep poverty and that nearly half of our citizens do not vote, yet we strive to realize the ideal to a more perfect union.” We could all follow Ginsburg’s example as “we struggle to achieve a greater understanding of each other across racial, religious and socio-economic lines.”
Even more so today, we have citizens which include children who have no health insurance, some which are homeless, where food scarcity has become a problem, and we live in the richest country in the world. We have seen needless shootings and killing of innocent citizens. So we recognize that it has not become a more perfect union.
It becomes more disappointing when we hear Republican hypocritical leaders say one thing and then do the opposite of what they said. For some, honor has no meaning. Lying to the public by political leaders has become the norm and places our democracy in jeopardy. You see, trust is an important part of a more perfect union. Lack of trust casts doubt on the survival of our democracy. More important is the lack of citizen’s participation in seeking the truth and believing untruths as if they were factual news.
It is important for you to recognize your part and be a well-informed and participating citizen in exercising your right to cast your vote in a free and fair election. And to have your vote counted without having someone attempting to take that right from you by declaring it invalid. The Republican legislature in Pennsylvania created a stumbling block for those voting by mail. The ballot must be in a second security envelope or it will be tossed and not counted. Does that violate your right to cast your ballot?
In Wisconsin the court overturned a Republican legislature voter suppression law that required mail-in ballots to be received no later than election day. The court said as long as the ballot is postmarked by election day, the ballot must be counted. Voter suppression places our democracy in jeopardy and well-informed citizens need to play an active role so that it does not occur.
Ginsburg knew that the U.S. Constitution was not a perfect document from the beginning. After all, we have had amendments made in an attempt to make it a more perfect document.
The final paragraph from Ginsburg’s address to new citizens of the United States was “May the spirit of liberty be your beacon. May you have the conscience and the courage to act in accord with that ideal as you play your part in helping to achieve a more perfect union.”
May Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rest in peace knowing her 27 years on the Supreme Court and that her opinions helped to make a more perfect union by improving the lives of many.
Ed McKinney of Johnson City is a retired business educator.